Grab a drink, because this is going to be a long recap, and they will be long for the rest of the season. The Pulaski Mariners began their first Appalachian League season with a 13 inning thriller, while the Everett Aquasox's opener was far less thrilling, and far less satisfying. We'll also get a good look at the lineups both teams started their season with, and get an idea of where certain players stand at this point in their careers given their placement with the season debuting clubs.
Also, did the West Tenn DIAMOND JAXX win their division championship? Who started in the outfield today for Tacoma, and what familiar face made his return to the Rainiers? Who suffered a scary setback in the Mavs game? Where is MY drink?
On to the wrap-up, as I try and answer that last question....
VENEZUELA~! VSL Mariners 4, VSL Cardinals 1
VSLMs: 18-11... VSL Cards: 16-14
(League: 261/346/360... 3.74 ERA)
Leonardo Rodriguez: 5 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 walks, 6 K (6 GS +1, 1.17 ERA, 30.2 IP, 11/25 BB/K)
Isliexel Gonzalez: 1.1 IP, 2 walks, 2 K, hit batter
Kervin Montbrum: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 2 walks, 4 K, 2 wild pitches (9 app, 2 GS, 4.80 ERA, 15 IP, 14/13 BB/K)
Carlos Ramirez: 2-4, RBI (244/370/289)
Mario Yepez: 1-3, double, RBI (365/417/538)
Kenny Hart: 2-3, R, RBI, K (167/242/200)
Franklin Diaz: 1-3, RBI, K
Roberto Velasquez: 2-4, R (288/430/363)
Despite Los Cardenales popping in a run in the 1st to tie the game at 1, Leonardo Rodriguez and Co gave them nothing of use after that, and the VSLMs took advantage of a defesnive miscue with two out in the 4th to set up a Kenny Hart RBI single, where another Cards error on the hit set up another run on a Franklin Diaz single to make it 3-1. Carlos Ramirez smoked a grounder into right with two out in the top 9th to cash in an insurance run that was set up in part by... you guessed it, a Cards error.
Dominican: DSL Mariners 6, DSL Phillies 3
DSLMs: 10-4... DSL Phils: 6-6
(League: 231/336/322... 3.72 ERA)
Henry Perez: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 walks, 7 K
Ambioris Hidalgo: 4 IP, 1 H, walk, 5 K
Hassiel Jimenez: 2-4, double, R, RBI, walk
Ramon Morla: pinch RBI triple, R
Rudy van Heydoorn: 3-5, RBI
Bertin Sanon: 2-4, R
The Phils nickeled and dimed their way t a 3-0 lead, but Perez clamped down and worked the minimum before Ambioris Hidalgo shut the Phils down in long relief as the DSLMs came roaring back. Two wild pitches from Phils pitcher Sergio Mendez (Brazil 66 not included*) helped a 2 run rally in the 5th. Another wild pitch, plus a Phils error, cashed in another run in the 6th to TIE THE BALLGAME.
The DSLMs needed no help whatsoever in the 9th to shatter the 3-3 tie, as Hassiel Jimenez doubled home a run with one out, Ramon Morla pinch hit and drove in Hassiel with a triple to center with two out, and Rudy van Heydoorn cashed him in with a lined single to make it 6-3.
* - Maybe three people will get that
Rk+: Pulaski 6, Princeton 5, 13 innings
Fabian Williamson: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 walks, 8 K, wild pitch (Everett in 2007)
Tommy Johannesen-Ellis: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 walks, 3 K (bounced around, mostly Peoria)
Philip Roy: 1.2 IP, (1 R) 0 ER, 2 walks, 3 K, wild pitch (Everett)
Jeff Dunbar: 2.2 IP, (intentional) walk, 3 K, 2 wild pitches (Everett... as a catcher)
Nick Czyz: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 K (35th rd 2008)
Clearly, the PMs got plenty of work in on Opening Day, but first, let's separate the Opening Day hitters, all listed so we can breakdown where these guys are coming from. I expected some of these guys to reprise in Everett, but it looks like the M's moved them to Pulaski to free up Everett for some of the better draft picks (Pulaski, as an Advanced Rookie club, is a step down from the Short Season A ball club in Everett. With the glut of young prospects, the M's clearly saw value in returning to the App League, to give them another low level club in which to give their kids some work).
SS Anthony Phillips: 0-6, 2 RBI, walk, 3 K (Peoria in 2007)
CF Dwight Britton: 1-5, 2 walks, 2 K (Everett)
DH Guy Welsh: 1-5, walk, 3 K (Peoria and a cup of coffee in Wisconsin)
Jermaine Brock: pinch ran for Welsh in 12th (Everett)
LF Kalian Sams: 0-6, 5 K: Platinum Sombrero (Wisconsin/Everett)
3B Mario Martinez: 1-6, triple, R, K (Peoria)
1B Kris Sanchez: 1-5, R, RBI, walk, K (Everett)
RF Jose Rivero: 3-6, double, triple, 2 R, K (VSLMs)
C Juan Fuentes: 2-5, R, RBI, walk, K (Peoria)
2B Blake Trinkler: 1-5, double, R, RBI, walk, 3 K (32nd rd 2007... pro debut)
Okay, the game. Fabian Williamson started out missing a lot of bats, and struck out the side... except the 2nd K was a wild pitch, allowing Burt Reynolds (yes, the P-Rays have a kid called Burt Reynolds) to take 1st and put runners at the corners. So despite 3 K's, Fabian only had two outs, but got Mayobanex Acosta to ground to 2nd to end the 1st frame.
Kris Sanchez walked with one out and Jose Rivero, one of the few VSLers to get over the Caribbean, singled to left to put men at 1st and 2nd... but Juan Fuentes and Bake Trinkler went down on strikes to kill that rally dead.
Someone finally scored in the 3rd. Burt Reynolds drew a one out walk, and Stroker Ace scored on an Eli Sonoqui double to make it 1-0 P-Rays.
But the PMs woke up at the plate themselves in the 4th. Mario Martinez led off with a triple to right, and Kris Sanchez immediately lined a single to cash him in and tie the game at 1. With one out, Juan Fuentes beat out a grounder to 2nd, as Sanchez made 2nd safely. P-Rays starter Matthew Moore got lifted, and Blake Trinker doubled off reliever Angel Chapa to cash in Sanchez and make it 2-1 PMs! Anthony Phillips grounded to short, and SS Diogenes Luis went for the play at the plate... but not in time, and Pulaski had a 3-1 lead. Phillips got caught stealing for the 2nd out, but Blake Trinkler came home himself and it was 4-1 PMs! DOUBLE STEAL FTW... even if the scorekeeper didn't call Trinkler's swipe an SB. Dwight Britton walked, stole 2nd himself, and Guy Welsh walked, but Kalian Sams struck out to end the frame. Keep this last detail in mind.
Princeton got a run back in the 4th after... guess who... Burt Reynolds singled in a run with two outs... but DJ Jones came around from 2nd, and CF Dwight Britton gunned him down at the plate to end the frame.
Princeton awoke in the 6th after Fabian Williamson called it a night after the minimum. Tommy Johannesen-Ellis, or Tom Ellis, depending on who you talk to, relieved Williamson and ran into trouble with one out. Justin Reynolds tripled, and Diogenes Luis sac flied him in for two outs to make it 4-3 PMs. Elias Otero walked and... guess who... Burt Reynolds lined a single to center to put runners at the corners. Eli Sonoqui grounded to 2nd, beat it out, and Otero came in to tie the ballgame at 4. Mayobanex Acosta walked to load the bases... but TJE struck out Dustin Biell to escape alive.
TJE almost ran into more trouble in the 7th. DJ Jones doubled with one out, Justin Reynolds walked, and a Diogenes Luis groundout to 1st moved them to 2nd and 3rd. TJE took a seat for Philip Roy, who walked Elias Otero to load the bases for... Burt Reynolds. But Roy shut the Mean Machine down, striking out Stroker Ace to escape the frame.
In the 8th, the first two PMs batters went quietly, but Jose Rivero chanelled Edgar and doubled down the LF line, Juan Fuentes walked, Blake Trinkler walked, and Anthony Phillips drew yet another walk to force in the go-ahead run before wild P-Rays reliever Julio Puentes got lifted. Dwight Britton could not keep it going, and grounded to 3rd, where the 3B... Burt Reynolds stepped on his bag for the force to retire the side.
Philip Roy pitched a 1-2-3 bottom 8th, and came on in the 9th to shut it down. Except DJ Jones once again sparked the P-Rays with a one out walk, then Roy uncorked a wild pitch to Justin Reynolds to move Jones to 2nd, and catcher Juan Fuentes made an ill-advised throw to 2nd that went YIKES AND AWAY, allowing Jones to take 3rd. Justin Reynolds then grounded to 2nd, where 2B Blake Trinkler muffed the ball, allowing Jones to score the tying run. Three miscues, one blown lead. Roy got the hook and in came Jeff Dunbar.
Jeff Dunbar was originally drafted with projections as a reliever, thanks to a workable low 90's fastball, yet the UC Riverside alum spent last season trying to cut it as a catcher in Everett despite a glut of catchers on the roster, mainly due to a strong ability to call games on his own. A 247/339/396 season in 154 ABs showed a bit of promise, but it looks like all systems are go for Dunbar as a relief pitcher in Pulaski this year, and his 1st go as a pro was not an easy one: tie game in the bottom 9th, one out, winning run on 1st.
And Dunbar promptly uncorked a wild pitch to Diogenes Luis to move Justin Reynolds to 2nd. But Luis grounded out to 3rd, and Elias Otero grounded out to short to end the threat, and we've got extra baseball on Opening Day.
The PMs got nothing in the 10th off reliever James Bagley. Dunbar led of the 10th against... Burt Reynolds. Dunbar struck him out, but strike three was past the catcher, and for the 2nd time in the game, Stroker Ace was safe at 1st despite striking out, thanks to a wild pitch. Eli Sonoqui bunted Burt to 2nd for one out, and Dunbar countered by intentionally walking Mayobanex Acosta... then struck out Dustin Biell... then struck out Ramon Novas to end the threat. Dunbar may have a future as a high leverage reliever.
Both sides went quietly in the 11th. In the 12th, Guy Welsh led off by smoking a grounder into LF, then got lifted for pinch runner Jermaine Brock. Brock stole 2nd, but Kalian Sams, having already netted the Golden Sombrero, struck out AGAIN... the 5th K netting himself, along with the team lead in K's, the Platinum Sombrero. Richie Sexson would be so proud.
Mario Martinez's tapbacker for two outs moved Brock to 3rd, but Kris Sanchez could not cash him in, flying out to right to end the frame.
Kansas alum Nick Czyz spelled Dunbar in the 12th, and despite a one out single from... Burt Reynolds (Memo to Rays: FREE STROKER ACE), the P-Rays managed nothing.
Jose Rivero led off the 13th with a triple to center. Juan Fuentes got a grounder into LF and FINALLY, the PMs got a runner across in the extra frames, as Rivero came in to make it 6-5 PMs. The next three PMs went quietly, but they now had the lead, and Czyz came back out to finish of the P-Rays.
Dustin Biell, having failed a couple previous times to get the ball in play, tried the approach of holding his bat in the strike zone instead of swinging, bunting himself aboard to lead off. Ramon Novas did not follow, striking out for one out. DJ Jones, the P-Rays sparkplug, came up, but Czyz caught Biell off the bag at 1st, and Biell was run down 1-3-6 for the 2nd out. With two outs and nobody aboard, the weight of the game on DJ Jones' shoulders was too much, and he watched Czyz's third strike paint the black to end a thrilling opener. If this game was any indication, I think we're gonna like App League baseball.
One last note... fun fact involving Tommy Johannesen-Ellis, or Tom Ellis: The Baseball Cube erroneously has him listed twice, once as Tom Ellis and once as Thomas Johannsen-Ellis. I have contacted Baseball Cube about this, and I'd expect it to be corrected in the next couple days, but still, there you go.
A-: Spokane 15, Everett 3
Doug Salinas: 3 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 3 walks, 3 K, 2 wild pitches (Everett)
Eddy Fernandez: 1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER (HR), walk (Wisconsin/Peoria)
Michael Renfree: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K, wild pitch (Peoria)
Mark Pettis: 2 IP, 2 H, (2 R) 1 ER, 2 K (Everett)
Let's just say Everett's opener did not go as well.
Lost detail: Spokane starting pitcher Neil Ramirez balked FOUR times.
Let's meet the Opening Day starting lineup. Unless otherwise noted, any location listed in parentheses is where said player played last season:
CF Ryan Royster: 0-3, R, 2 walks, 2 K (13th rd 2008)
2B Luis Nuñez: 1-3, 2 K (Wisconsin, Peoria and a cup of coffee with Tacoma in 2007)
Bennett Bilingsley: pinch walk (16th rd 2008)
3B Nate Tenbrink: 0-4, K (7th rd 2008)
1B Manny Pimentel: 1-4, RBI, K (Everett... and a cup of coffee in West Tenn this season)
DH Brandon Fromm: 0-4, 2 K (Peoria)
C Travis Howell: 0-3, R, walk, 2 K (18th rd 2008)
SS George Soto: 0-4, K (DSLMs)
LF Welington Dotel: 2-3, R, walk (Everett, Peoria and a cup of coffee in High Desert)
RF Tyson Gillies: 1-3, RBI (Peoria... plus some work in High Desert this season)
Let's speak no more of this game.
A: The T-Rats remain on their All Star Break, and should resume play tomorrow at home against Burlington.
A+: High Desert 9, Lancaster 8
(League: 267/338/398... 4.41 ERA)
Kyle Parker: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER (HR), 3 walks, K (15 GS, 4.30 ERA, 81.2 IP, 7 HR, 36/66 BB/K)
Nick Hill: 2.1 IP, 1 H, (1 R) 0 ER, 2 K (17 app, 10 GS, 4.24 ERA, 68 IP, 8 HR 22/52 BB/K)
Austin Bibens-Dirkx: 1.1 IP, walk, 2 K (23 app, 5.81 ERA, 31 IP, 6 HR, 11/22 BB/K)
Michael Wagner: 1.1 IP, 1 H (27 app, 4.96 ERA, 32.2 IP, 8/26 BB/K)
Bryan Harris: 1.1 IP, 1 H, walk, K (17 app, 5.68 ERA, 19 IP, 3 HR, 4/11 BB/K)
Aaron Cotter: 1 IP (30 app, 2.89 ERA, 37.1 IP, 3 HR, 8/30 BB/K)
Daniel Carroll: 2-5, 2 R, K, SB
Kuo Hui Lo: 2-5, triple, 2 R, RBI, K (246/297/374)
Carlos Peguero: 4-5, 3 doubles, R, 3 RBI, SB (303/324/485)
Chris Minaker: 1-4, R, 2 RBI (287/324/455)
Travis Scott: 1-4, solo HR (261/310/413)
Jose Yepez: 1-3, 2 run HR, walk, K (265/321/392)
Looks like I spoke too soon about Kyle Parker! Lancaster bombed him for 6 runs in the 1st, and with two outs in the 1st, Parker started favoring his arm after walking Daniel Nava, and he got the prompt hook for Military Man Nick Hill. Let's hope the injury isn't serious, though given his recent struggles, and how badly things were going in this start, I don't have a good feeling about this.
The good news was that the Mavs matched the Jethawks, as Carlos Peguero doubled home a run in the 1st, Chris Minaker singled him in, and Jose Yepez went deep to make it 4-0 out of the gate. After the disaster inning, Erick Monzon and Daniel Carroll got on before Monzon scored on a Kuo Hui Lo groundout, and Peguero doubled in another run to make it 6-6. Lars Anderson, however, took Parker deep before his early exit, giving Lancaster a 7-6 lead.
Travis Scott led off the 3rd by going deep himself to tie the ballgame, and after Hill went 1-2-3 in the 3rd, Peguero once again cashed in a run, this time singling in Daniel Carroll to give the Mavs an 8-7 lead.
It was short lived, as Kuo Hui Lo misplayed a liner in the bottom half to put Jason Place on, and Place eventually scored on a two out single from Josh Reddick to tie the ballgame at 8.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx came in for the 5th and only allowed a walk. ABD got a break in the 6th when Jason Place's liner found Ogui Diaz at SS before getting lifted for Michael Wagner, who, despite more than 30 innings of relief work, has not allowed a home run in the Cal League this season! He got two flyouts without incident to end the 6th.
Kuo Hui Lo led off the 7th with a triple, and Chris Minaker sac flied him in to give the Mavs a 9-8 lead. Wagner looked like he would give the lead away in the bottom 7th, when Josh Reddick led off with a single, and Wagner uncorked a wild pitch to give Reddick 2nd. But Daniel Nava's liner found Ogui Diaz for one out, Chih-Hsieng Chiang popped out, and Wagner got the hook for Bryan Harris, who despite walking Dennis Blackmon got Argenis Diaz on strikes to end the threat.
Harris continued his rebound, undoing a leadoff seeing eye single by getting Jason Place to ground into the 6-4-3 double play before getting Jorge Jimenez to ground out. Aaron Cotter came in to work the 9th, and despite leadoff batter Lars Anderson getting on from a muffed grounder by Erick Monzon at 3B, the next three batters flew out to end the game.
1st half Southern League North division playoff (but also a regular season game that counts for the 2nd half)
AA: West Tenn 5, Huntsville 1
West Tenn DIAMOND JAXX: 1st half Southern League North Division Champions!
(League: 260/339/393... 4.16 ERA)
Ryan Ketchner: 7.1 IP, 4 H, (1 R) 0 ER, walk, 2 K, hit batter (14 GS, 3.23 ERA, 75.1 IP, 3 HR, 24/51 BB/K)
Shawn Kelley: 1.2 IP, walk, 2 K, wild pitch (5 app, 0 ER, 5.2 IP, 3/6 BB/K... 0 ER in 17 app since promotion from Wisconsin)
Michael Saunders: 1-4, double, R (290/375/484)
Mike Wilson: 1-4, double, 2 RBI, K (269/353/538)
Johan Limonta: 2-4, R, K (309/394/512)
Adam Moore: 1-4, RBI, K (301/375/453)
Luis Valbuena: 1-4, 2 RBI (296/366/471)
Brent Johnson led off the title game with a lined single, Michael Saunders reached on a throw YIKES AND AWAY by starter Steve Hammond, and Mike Wilson cashed both runners in with a double to make it 2-0.
A Mark Kiger error allowed Angel Salome to reach to lead off the 2nd. Uber prospect Matt LaPorta lined a single, Cole Gillespie bunted them over for one out, and Chris Errecart's flyout allowed Salome to tag up and score to cut the lead to 2-1.
The DIAMOND JAXX got the run back in the 4th. Johan Limonta led off by getting a grounder into RF, then took 2nd on a wild pitch, and when catcher Carlos Corporan threw YIKES AND AWAY to nab him at 2nd, Limonta went ahead and took 3rd. Adam Moore's seeing eye single into right allowed Limonta to score easily and re-extend the lead to 3-1.
Ryan Ketchner kept getting groundballs, and despite Kiger's ealy miscue, the defense kept turning them into easy outs, so the Sars never could get going after their lone run. The DIAMOND JAXX dealt the final blow in the 6th. Johan Limonta got another grounder into right to lead off, and Adam Moore's tapbacker for one out allowed Limonta to take 2nd. Jon Nelson smoked a grounder into RF, but Limonta got gunned down at the plate for two outs by Matt LaPorta's throw from RF. But Jeff Dominguez lined a single to center to put runners at 1st and 2nd, Steve Hammond uncorked another wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and Luis Valbuena dealt a huge blow with a lined single to center to cash both runners in and make it 5-1 and chase Hammond from the game.
And Ketchner stil gave them little, the few flyballs and liners Huntsville could manage finding fielders for outs. Ketchner finally ran into trouble in the 8th, plunking Carlos Corporan and watching Michael Brantley smoke a grounder into RF before finally getting the hook after one of his best starts of the season, when the DIAMOND JAXX needed it the most.
Groundballs: 11 (plus 2 bunts)
Line Drives: 3
Pop Ups: 1
Walks: 1 (plus 1 hit batter)
Shawn Kelley then saw a scare with two outs, uncorking a wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd, but he struck out Mat Gamel to end the threat, and in the 9th, he undid a one out walk by geting Cole Gillespie to ground into the 6-4-3 game ending, title sealing double play.
AAA: Las Vegas 5, Tacoma 2
TAC: 35-36... LVG: 41-32
(League: 274/345/434... 4.73 ERA)
Rich Dorman (!): 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER (HR), 2 K, 2 wild pitches
Cesar Jimenez: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 K (24 app, 3.78 ERA, 33.1 IP, 3 HR, 8/43 BB/K)
Jared Baek Bait Wells: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, walk, K (8 app, 6.48 ERA, 8.1 IP, 5/12 BB/K)
Matt Tuiasosopo: 1-4, solo HR, 3 K (258/339/402)
Bryan LaHair: 1-3, double, walk, K (261/350/478)
Shawn Garrett: 1-4, double, K (272/316/408)
Rob Johnson: 1-4, double (258/326/366)
Charlton Jimerson: 2-3, solo HR (245/258/490)
So Rich Dorman makes his faux-triumphant return to AAA, and only throws 66 pitches in throwing a jagged but otherwise useful minimum, notable for surrendering a 3rd inning home run to some gimpy veteran named Nomar Garciaparra.
Groundballs: 10 (plus 1 bunt)
Flyballs: 3 (1 HR)
Line Drives: 4
Pop Ups: 1
Still, the Rainiers trailed 2-1, until Matt Tuiasosopo took Matt Rikey deep with two outs in the 8th to TIE THE BALLGAME at 2. But Baek Bait ran into trouble in the 8th. John Lindsey walked with one out, then John-Ford Griffin smoked a grounder into right, then Jason Repko smoked a grounder into left to score Lindsey, as LF Prentice Redman misplayed the ball, allowing Griffin to take 3rd. Angel Chavez then lined a double to left to cash in Griffin, making it 4-2 as Repko took 3rd. AJ Ellis' flyball found Charlton Jimerson for two outs, but Repko tagged up and score to make it 5-2. Wilkin Ruan beat out a grounder to short, but Xavier Paul struck out to end a disaster inning that wasn't entirely Baek Bait's fault.
Brian Falkenbourg In, Game Over? Victor Diaz flew out, Prentice Redman grounded out to 3rd, and Shawn Garrett doubled to left, but Rob Johnson grounded harmlessly to 1st to end the game.
Rainiers OF watch: Prentice Redman in LF, Charlton Jimerson in CF and Shawn Garrett in RF with Victor Diaz at DH. No WLAD yet.